Top 3 Product Management Challenges and How to Overcome Them
Being a product manager can be a tough gig. The number of product management challenges you face can at times feel overwhelming or too difficult to overcome.
You’re in the middle of various teams, managing stakeholders, expectations, and requirements – all while trying to keep some level of sanity!
The good news is, that there is something you can do about those product management challenges. Don’t let the grind get to you, there is a light at the end tunnel.
Let’s dig into the details.
If you’re in a rush, here’s a quick TLDR on these product management challenges (keep reading to see what to do to tackle them!)
- You aren’t just managing a product, you’re managing people!
- Balance communication and expectations with a roadmap and a clear product process.
- Try to avoid being reactive to what’s in front of you – take your time to understand problems and review insights.
- Focus on outcomes instead of output. Being trigger happy can mean triggering the wrong decision.
Product Management is People Management
Being a product manager means you’ll be managing more than just a product, you will also be managing people.
Stakeholders will have different priorities, unconscious biases, and requirements, and it is up to you to balance all of that while still putting the needs of your customers first in order to drive the business forward. Product managers have to manage up, down, and sideways. It can get seriously overwhelming.
Actionable product management takeaways:
- Have an open and clear product management process. The most successful teams are the ones that have no silos and operate as a single entity, working together towards the same objectives. Be transparent! Share your roadmap, share your process, share feedback. Share how and why you make decisions and involve your entire team so the product doesn’t feel like it’s sitting in a dark corner.
- Don’t be the source of ‘no.’ A lot of product managers are taught to say ‘no’ early on in their careers. While in theory this sounds like a good idea, what you’re doing is creating friction. Instead of being the source of no, pivot that to teaching your team what it takes for you to say yes. Show them what that decision-making process looks like and how they can contribute to the product process.
- Don’t play the blame game. In the words of Moira Rose, when one of us shines, all of us shine! Don’t play the blame game when something goes wrong or when someone misunderstands something. No, your salespeople don’t suck. No, it’s not that your marketing managers don’t know what they’re doing. Instead of passing around blame like a hot potato, focus on how you can improve the lines of communication between teams to smooth things out.
Don’t Be Reactive to Competitors
It can be easy to get carried away with what the competition is putting out. I like to call this shiny-object syndrome: it’s pretty, it’s shiny, and perhaps if you had it, you’d be awesome too, right?
Avoid falling into the trap of being reactive to what someone else is doing and instead, focus on what your data, customers, insights and your vision are telling you.
Actionable product management takeaways:
- Have a strong product strategy that is shared with your entire company. Again, this is about transparency and communication across all of your teams. Align yourself to your vision and objectives. Focus on what you do best instead of what others are doing. Their vision isn’t yours and yours isn’t theirs.
- Don’t treat feedback as a request. Feedback is there to inform you about where there are possible pain points and problems you can solve. Just because a potential customer gave you feedback about what someone else is doing and how they want it in your product, it doesn’t mean you are obligated to work on it. If it doesn’t align to your vision, it isn’t for you.
- Make decisions based on business value. Product changes should drive value to your business and solve problems for your customers. If you can’t answer what problem it would solve, should you really be working on it? (And no, “the competition did it” is not a problem!)
Focus on Outcomes Instead of Output
One of the biggest challenges in modern product management is communicating to others that focusing on outcomes is far more valuable than focusing on output.
The idea of “work fast and break things” is long gone – you should work fast and learn things instead. This means understanding the problems you might be able to solve, running quick experiments, and seeing how their results give you the closest desired outcome to the goal you want to reach. This in turn reduces the risk of business failure, allowing you to catch potential issues before you spend a ton of development time on them.
This requires a huge shift in mentality though. You need to introduce the idea of discovery and experimentation to your team, and set the tone that what you are doing is asking questions before tying yourself to a solution.
What does this look like? Well, instead of opening up with we are going to work on this integration because a lot of people have asked for it, you are changing the conversation to, How might we create integrations that drive value for our customers, and also allow us to drive growth?
The second is more uncertain initially, but it will allow you to find the most optimal solution that brings the greatest value. After all, you don’t want to end up building a solution nobody needed (amirite juicero?)
What can you do?
- Use the Opportunity Solution Tree to visualize your desired outcomes, potential opportunities and outline experiments you can run.
- Use an outcome-based roadmap that is based on questions instead of features. This will give you far more room to run discovery, gain insights, and solve the right problems.
- Ask the right questions with Userpilot. The best way to find out what your customers actually need is by asking the right questions in the right place at the right time. You can do this quickly and at low cost by implementing Userpilot in your product and triggering in-app questions and microsurveys that will give you the necessary insights you need.